Weaver's Week 2013-05-26
Dancing meatballs! That's what this Saturday night needs!!
Final, 18 May
The opening animation was a caterpillar, slowly making the trek from Baku to Malmö, stopping off in an awful lot of European cities on the way. Then there was something they've nicked from the Junior Song Contest, parading flags of the competing countries and the performers along a giant bridge over the crowd. Loreen performed a brief medley of the songs she's made since last year (because "Euphoria" was so last Tuesday), and the contest finally began at about 8.20. It didn't finish until 11.31, running a good quarter-hour over time.
Looking at the semi-finals, we see that Former Yugoslavia countries finished in positions 11, 12, and 13 on Tuesday, none of them really attracting strong emotions from outside the Balkans. Thursday saw Latvia finish bottom, with Macedonia and Albania continuing their mutual appreciation society. Both semi-finals had clear breaks between the qualifiers and non-qualifiers, a six-point gap on Tuesday, 16 points by Thursday.
Bottom of the pile in the main contest was Ireland, getting off the mark thanks to a single point from the UK, and securing just two more votes and four more points all evening. The problem here was simply that it wasn't a very good song. Though the staging was memorable, with gents in austerity shirts, the song didn't go anywhere after the first thirty seconds. We understand the performance on Friday night (when the juries vote and award half the marks) was woeful. Some of the Irish commentators suggested they had a good chance of a top five finish; almost all of them were bitterly disappointed by the result. Graham Norton's summary: "That could win".
Spain finished next up, getting eight points, six of them from the erratic Albanian jury. ESDM sent "Contigo Hasta El Final (With You Until The End)". It struck us as "Woman Versus Wind Machine", which is an unfair battle, particularly as this year's wind machines were mounted to the cameras. France came 23rd, Amandine Bourgeois sang "L'enfer Et Moi". She looked like Courtney Love, sang with the emotion of Amy Winehouse, and were boosted only by the apparent jury result from San Marino. It was a very French number, intense and brooding and wearing her heart on her sleeve. France always sends very French songs, and seems content for bottom-division meanderings.
Between them was Finland, the top score was four from Israel. Theirs was a remorselessly upbeat number, full of dings and dongs, and with Krista dressed as a bride with bouquet and long flowing train. We'll note the brief kiss between Krista and her female backing dancer; ten years after Tatu were threatened with exclusion, this brief peck was perfectly permissible. So was a pair of men getting married in the interval act, and the host suggesting that the Eurofans hadn't found the right girl yet. 2013 was the year when Eurovision acknowledged its popularity amongst gay men.
2013 was also the year when the producers got to arrange the running order to make a good television show. Last year, the show opened with a stream of dreary ballads, and ended with a long run of danceable songs. The EBU claims that there's no statistical evidence that performance order correlates with result; we challenge them to publish their methodology for review. Four of the bottom five had performed in the first five, and the very bottom song had been in the completely toxic last performance space.
Nothing was going to save Lithuania, drawn second, and finishing 22nd. "Something" had come 9th in its heat, and only Italy had love for the song, giving 10 in the semi and 6 in the final. Never mind, Danny From The Script, you'll be back next week. Surprise of the night was that Germany came 21st, well-known dance act Cascada performed "Glorious". They're established stars, they've had a string of hits in recent years, though those hits seemed to dry up a few years back. Singer Natalie is familiar with the demands of arena performance, but she still managed to sing rather flat in the opening lines. Before the contest, some argued that "Glorious" was a photocopy of "Euphoria". If it was a photocopy, someone needs to call an engineer, because it's faded and indistinct and you really have to know what it is you're looking for. A blurry mess, and so was the song. Six from Austria, and five from Israel – there was a time when votes flowed in the other direction, but those days of racist stereotypes are gone.
Estonia came 20th, a gentle ballad was forgotten by the voting, and all the points came from the Baltic neighbours. Top of the low performers were United Kingdom; Bonnie Tyler came 19th. Let's be absolutely fair, Bonnie delivered an outstanding performance, using her years of experience to superb effect – that and the lift mechanism they'd put in the satellite stage and that no-one else used. But a great performance of a mediocre song isn't going to cut it – "Believe in me" is stately rock, the sort of thing we'd expect as a slow march at a formal event. Seven from Ireland and five from Malta. We've criticised the BBC over the past few months, and we're sad to report that they've done exactly what we projected: best of the also-rans, 23 points, barely half that of the song above them. The BBC seems to forget that this is a song contest, not a performer contest. When the BBC sends a good song, it does well. When they send a decent song, it does decently. When they send a can't-really-be-bothered entry, that also shows.
There's a fair gap to Armenia, Iceland, and Belarus. Armenia sent a light rock track, hoping that Black Sabbath were still in some way relevant to the contemporary music audience. 10 from Georgia was top, those crazy French sent seven. Iceland's icy ballad was surrounded by the top two entries, receiving ten positive votes including eight points from Germany and two from the UK. Belarus threw everything at their entry, the campest mass-appeal entry of the night. Yes, Ireland and Finland were more obviously targetting the gay vote, but proved completely toxic to the straight audience. Belarus got their usual 12 from Ukraine, and it looks like they were lifted a couple of places by Yugoslavia's early elimination.
Negative surprise of the night was Georgia – 10th in their semi-final, only 15th on Saturday. Countries that liked it really liked it – tens from Armenia and Azerbaijan, and a useful 5 from Russia – but only one vote from outside the former Soviet republics suggests votes for Georgia rather than the song. This is probably a good thing – G:son took the whole performance from the Book of Eurovision Cliché, we found song and presentation to be formulaic and seen-it-all-before. Georgia will win this contest one day, but they need to be original and not send in a faint carbon copy of the 2011 winner. This year, they won the Press Award, as voted by members of the press.
"You" represented Sweden, performed by Robin Sternberg. It was the annual "we don't want to host your contest next year" entry, competent without ever being brilliant, and never gave SVT cause to enquire after an arena in Gothenburg. 14th place included top marks from Norway. Romania finished 13th, the vampire performing light opera clearly tickled voters, with the north-west corner of Europe being almost as generous as Romania's neighbours; top scores were 10 from Greece and Moldova. It'll be one that the BBC wheels out to sneer at Eurovision, which is a shame, because it's a good song. How good? The other composers voted it the best.
Half-way up the board, and time to look at the contribution of Sarah Dawn Finer. As the comic character Linda Woodruff, she showed off the best of Sweden during the commercial breaks – the royal palace where Benny and Agnetha and the other two live, that kind of obviously wrong nonsense. She also put together a brief miss-story of the Eurovision Song Contest, equally full of blatantly made-up rubbish. Finer's finest moment was at the end of the voting interval, when she performed a solo rendition of "The winner takes it all", by the Swedish royal family. A lovely performance, but the show was already running too long.
The interval act proper was "Swedish Smorgasbord", a self-deprecating presentation of life in the kingdom. Our Texan correspondent was impressed by this entry, and would have voted for it if she could. Reminded us – in tone and style – of the best bits of Animaniacs. Those are the facts.
Belgium and Moldova finished in 12th and 11th, separated only by their fourth highest vote: both entries received 16 scores, Moldova's highest were 12-8-7-6, Belgium's 12-8-7-5. It's a good job the Top Ten don't get an automatic place in the final any more, as Belgium would have missed by a merest whisker. The top marks came from Romania and Netherlands, respectively.
Belgium had one of the few songs we could still hum on Monday morning, and it's clear that Roberto relaxed after a technical problem in the semi-final forced him to sing again. Moldova has consistently delivered songs of quality and distinction to impress the jurors, with memorable staging to impress the televoters. Fourth place in their semi-final on Tuesday turned a little sour thanks to draw 3 on Saturday; given a slightly better song and a bit more luck, we might yet ask what the weather's like in Chisinau.
"She dances with dandelions then gently her head declines". Byealex's lyric loses something in translation from the original Hungarian, making him sound less like an angsty hipster and more like a Jeremy Clarkson impersonator. The song is like a Herreys revival, going from 0 to 84 in three minutes, and it's a comfortable ride into tenth place with top marks from Germany. Surprised that this got nothing from the UK.
Anouk finished 9th for the Netherlands, with top marks from Belgium. "Birds" was a very simple presentation, just a woman on the satellite stage. It was dark and bleak song, reminded one commentator of "Dawn's lament" from Buffy The Musical, certainly going a bit over the heads of the audience.
Series 7, heat 2: Cartophiles v Celts
Teams B and P on your show guides this week, and it's Connecting Walls 283 and 284 on the website.
We have a set of map fans, the Cartophiles, and they claim to have spent a couple of weeks memorising every fact in existence. They're up against the Celts, a group of people born and raised in Wales. They converse with the host in Welsh, as one does.
Round one has the Celts kicking off, with pictures. Pictures of buildings: something in India, there's a red windmill, and that's a dead giveaway. Or a Red giveaway for two points. Cartophiles have a text clue: Mariah Carey +11, Princess Anne +5, Sam Taylor-Johnson +23, and apparently the answer is the age gaps to the women's husbands. 2-2.
Music for the Celts: Blue Velvet and Boogie Nights, and that's enough because those song titles are also films. Easy when you know the answer. "His physiognomy is so grammatical!" The first clue for the Cartophiles, who go after three clues for Mrs. Malaprop's malapropisms. Celts lead 5-4.
Back to the Celts, with Civilization V and chicken wire and graphite crystal. Do they know it? The Blockbusters board gives the answer: hexagonal structures. And we wonder, is there an episode of Blockbusters featuring a young Victoria Coren? For the Cartophiles, Puyi and Wilhelm II are last emperors, enough for three points and the Cartophiles have won the first set, 7-6.
Back to the Celts for the sequences round; if 4 is freedom from unreasonable searches, then might 1 be freedom of the press? The Celts try to give the theme, and get two points for amendments to the US constitution. Pictures for the Cartophiles: a building with a lot of columns, one with even more columns, one with lots of steps outside. "Buckingham Palace"? Nay, The Louvre, as the most visited art museums in the world. A bonus for the Celts, now 9-7 ahead.
Alberto Contador. "He's a cyclist who won the Tour de France." They take a second clue to confirm it's not Lance Armstrong And A Pack of Drugs, because it is Bradley Wiggins and three points. More pictures for the Cartophiles: a purple triangle, the gherkin in green, a yellow spiral thing. Oh, this is brilliant! The work of an evil genius mind. No, not a spiky top like the Shard. Not at all. "A shape," say the Celts, which isn't good enough. A red circle. Obviously! Did these people never watch Teletubbies?! Celts lead 12-7.
Receptacle and Ovary and Style flummoxes the Welsh side, whose guess of Vogue is wrong. So is Stamen; it is parts of a flower, the central parts going up, and it's Stigma. So for the Cartophiles, 0 is Green, 1 is Red, 2 is Black, and 3 is going to be another colour. Red, in fact, because these are numbers on a roulette wheel. All of which leaves the Celts still ahead, 12-9.
The Cartophiles have the pick of the walls, and kick off with musical terms, but that's not quite right. Then they try parts of a ship, and mythical weapons come out quickly. That includes Excalibur, a good one to come out at all. Musical terms is a group, and the last one is dressage movements, not the ballet movements. Victoria impresses us with her knowledge of dressage, and her ability to read a card. Seven points!
So for the Celts, there looks to be mushroom for improvement. And there's areas in Edinburgh. And there's some television cooking judges, and that brings out both Hollywood and Leith. The mushrooms might be joined with songs by Michael Bublé, a fungi to be with. While going through the answers, Victoria proposes a "bring in some cakes" round, it wouldn't be judged. "We'd just curry favour", says one of the contenders. Enough with the puns! Ten points!
Which means the Celts lead 22-16 going into Missing Vowels. Nuts and seeds is the first group, and both sides end up scoring a point. Audrey Hepburn films is another split round, 2-2. Ten letter occupations, that goes to the Cartophiles by a point. Poisonous substances ends up with the Celts, 2-1. A rare fifth category, Religious movements, scores a couple for the Cartophiles, but it's not quite enough. They have 24, the Celts 28.
Eurovision Song Contest Redux
Back at the Eurovision Song Contest, Malta came 8th, Gianluca's simple song clearly hit a sweet spot amongst the viewers and juries of Europe; the shot of the band sitting on a bench near the end is one of the more memorable. No-one sent the full twelve, but the breadth of appeal was demonstrated by tens from Italy, San Marino, and Norway.
Towards the end of the song presentation, the music was interrupted by someone who turned up for the lottery draws. Marco Mengoni represented Italy in a shiny suit and tie, his song "L'Essenziale" had won the San Remo song festival, placing seventh here. It's an atmospheric number, Marco sings it brilliantly, but we found the staging to be staid and predictable. The former X Factor Italy winner received top marks from Spain, Switzerland, and Albania.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, as Greece came sixth with "Alcohol is free!" Kosa Mostra were joined by vocalist Agathon Iakovidis for a riotous performance (at least by this contest's standards), full of energy and verve. This energy might have helped a song that was never a winner, as did Greece's usual neighbourly voting: eight from the UK, top marks from San Marino and Cyprus.
This year's contest played fast and loose with some of its unofficial rituals. SVT treated all three contests as one programme, putting the winner's reprise on Tuesday night and running features across the week. The producers were allowed to order the performances in the semis and the final; this made for good television, but we're not sure it benefitted the contest as a contest. Perhaps draw the entries into quarters next year.
The voting on Saturday night was a bit of a mess. We expect one of the jury spokespeople to flub their lines, and we're just sorry that it was Lena for Germany – her fourth consecutive year on the broadcast, and she was clearly mortified to confuse Denmark with Norway. Our problem is that the 1-7 points flashed up very quickly – for a couple of countries, these lower points were on screen for barely a second before the scoreboard updated. There was a plan to put up the lower points while Petra said, "Now to Ireland, hello Shane From Westlife", and this would have worked – possibly at the expense of us not looking at the spokesperson.
The biggest change was that, as soon as it became clear Denmark would win the contest, they announced it, and projected the Danish butterfly onto Petra's skirt as though she were Aliona Moon from Moldova. It made the last four jury votes a complete anti-climax: with one of them being Cyprus, the unofficial ritual of the crowd jeering at the predictable voting was lost because they were cheering for Emmelie.
So, now that we know the winner, what of the others? Russia finished fifth, "What if" was a blatant Eurovision-by-numbers number, with the key change and uplifting message and all-join-hands finale and the suspicion that most of the vocals came from a backing singer out the back. Twelves from Estonia and Latvia, a lot of tens (including from the UK), though very few lower votes suggests it's a song popular with the televoters and loved or loathed by the juries.
We'd love the EBU to publish all of the results, positions 1 to 26 from all the voting areas, but they don't believe in such transparency. This might come back to bite them: amongst the nations giving nothing to Russia was Azerbaijan. Eyebrows were raised at Azeri broadcaster Ictimai, apparently "viewers voting by SMS placed Dina Garipova second, and the jury also gave her strong backing". Second in the SMS vote, but what of votes cast by telephone or through the interactive EBU app? And what of the statement from EBU supervisor Jon Ola Sand, that the combination of jury vote and televote awarded nothing to Russia?
Would second in the televote and nothing special in the jury vote really lead to nothing? Actually, it really might have done. RAI in Italy have published their full results. Romania topped the televote, the jury hated it, and they scored one point. Other countries in the east have hopped on the bandwagon, with Belarus's president saying, "Down with this sort of thing!" and "Careful, now." Our interest in the song contest waned late last decade, when the expat vote became dominant. It would certainly be in the EBU's interest to publish all the data and slay the rumours of skulduggery.
Norway finished fourth, "I feed you my love". Margaret Berger has been a star since finishing second on Pop Idle Norway in 2004, and here performed a very modern electrobeat pop song. The sort of thing Roxette would put out if they were still going. Perhaps too modern for the UK jury (average age: about 2.5 times the UK score), who sent nothing; Denmark, Finland, and Sweden gave the full twelve.
"Gravity" from Ukraine came third. As a song, this is actually far better than we thought last week: it swoops and has depth. We were completely put off by the opening, where Zlata is carried on by a giant and deposited on a stone. Massive in the east, 12s from four former Soviet republics and from Croatia, and an appreciative smattering from the west. Just one point from Russia in the final, which is unusually mean.
Azerbaijan continued its strong form, putting "Hold me" second. It's an intense power ballad, with a memorable staging – Farid begins on top of a perspex box, in which a dancer is standing upside down. As the song continues, the man in the box mirrors Farid's movements, before engaging in a dance with the woman outside. At the climax, rose petals are released into the box. A grand performance, though not really respected by the west – ten nations sent top marks, only Austria and Malta are western, and the extended Nordic bloc generally sent nothing. We'd love to see a locally-written song from Azerbaijan one of these years. The commentators voted this to have the best artistic merit.
San Marino the only jury to send nothing, eight sent top marks (including the UK and Ireland), and Denmark scored 56 of a potential 60 from former Yugoslavia. Emmelie de Forest looked like a cross between Shakira and Emma Watson's Hermione, wore a tremendously lucky bangle, and has spent five years touring the folk clubs of northern Europe with a chap from Glasgow called Fraser Neill. He's given an interview to those Eurovision fans at The Spectator.
This folk training showed in the song "Only teardrops", which began with an Irish-ish pennywhistle, and continued in a lollopping beat. The staging was superlative: all of the wrinkles had been worked out during the Danish national finals, so they knew the camera angles they wanted: the one with Emmelie giving a brief smile to a drummer, the fireworks and confetti fall (which we didn't see in the winner's reprise), one with Emmelie to the right of the picture leaving a very fillable gap on the left.
It was an enjoyable Eurovision, three memorable shows. Many of the songs are going to be growers, we look forward to revisiting the CD in a month or two. Glad to see the BBC running the credits to the end: a slight shame that SVT had over-run terribly and cut the reprise early.
Denmark has shown the route to success. Send good songs, and don't care who performs them. By any reckoning, at least five of the last six Danish entries have been cracking songs, and that success has built on success.
And so to the new voting map. It's based on results between 2009 and 2013, so one set of pure televotes, seven sets of votes considering the top ten of jury and televotes, and this year's complete ranking of jury and televotes. We've now got three distinct groups: the Extended Nordic Group, centred on Denmark – Sweden – Iceland, and including Estonia, Ireland, the UK, and now Germany. The Former USSR is a bunch of friends of Ukraine and/or Russia, including the Romanians and Lithuanians. There's a tightly-knit Ex-Yugoslavia group, it would surely include Montenegro had they not pulled out last year.
Linking the Former USSR and Ex-Yugoslavia is a Balkan Straggle, based on routes between Yugoslavia and Azerbaijan through Turkey and through Albania and Greece. Included in this area are Malta and San Marino; because Turkey gave votes to the Dutch, they and the Belgians are honorary members of the Balkans for Eurovision purposes. Of the other participants, Hungary and Latvia are closest to the Nordics, Switzerland and Austria float around Yugoslavia, France and Israel are around the Soviets, and Italy could seriously mess up the map if they ever form a pattern to their outbound voting. It's almost as if the Italians judge the quality of the song! Heresy!
We'll see if Italy can mess up the map in twelve months' time.
This Week And Next
Online voting is now open for the TV Choice awards. We're annoyed that Countdown isn't included in the Most Popular Daytime Show, but 1001 ChaseDeal Perfection Pointless Point is, along with Rooms 4 – Minutes to a Fortune 5. In Entertainment Show, there's the usual suspects – Ant and Dec, Britain's Brightest, and – crikey! Only Connect! Up for an award!
The transfer window doesn't open until next Friday, but some moves have already been confirmed. The X Factor Us has picked up Kelly Rowland, who impressed on her time with the British squad in 2011. She replaces Britney Spears, who will be spending more time with her family. In the British camp, Tulisa Contostavlos has handed in her transfer request; she steered Little Mix to victory on her début in 2011, but couldn't quite repeat that success last year. It's expected that she'll be replaced by David Beckham. All the finalists – apart from the winner – will take turns in Harry Hill's spin-off musical, "I Can't Sing!", scheduled to open in March next year.
The traditional January standby, Dancing on Ice, will end its run next spring after nine years as a useful halftime substitute. "It's come to the end of its natural life, time to hang up our boots," said Torvill (or was it Dean).
Ratings for the week to 12 May, compiled by BARB. Britain's Got Talent had a clear lead, 10.25m against 8.85m for BBC The Voice of Holland of UK. The Apprentice returned to 7.25m viewers, and 5.2m saw HIGNFY. Catchphrase and Mr and Mrs both topped 4 million viewers, The Cube and The Chase had 3m, and Millionaire might have been seen by someone.
The Apprentice You're Fired was BBC2's new weekly winner, 2.25m viewers. Eggheads had 1.35m, putting it ahead of Celebrity Deal or No Deal With The Jls (1.25m) and Regular Quotidian Deal or No Deal (870,000). So behind Celebrity Juice (1.63m), ahead of Britain's Got More Talent (995,000), and BBC3's How to Win Eurovision (580,000).
Coming up this week: Live episodes of Britain's Got Talent (ITV and TV3, from Monday), a new run of Gory Games (CBBC, 5pm weekdays), Roy Walker is on Just a Minute (Radio 4, 6.30 Monday), In It to Win It comes back to Saturdays (BBC1, 7.35), and Richard Osman turns up absolutely everywhere.
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